Meeting May 2024 Pharmacy First payment thresholds is ‘an area of risk’, warns Community Pharmacy England

The concerns are backed by the results of a survey of independent pharmacy owners carried out by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, which revealed 19% of respondents said the minimum monthly thresholds are "unachievable".
People queuing outside an independent pharmacy in Clapham, south London

Providing the minimum number of Pharmacy First consultations for contractors to collect NHS England’s monthly payment of £1,000 is an “area of risk” that is being kept under review, according to Community Pharmacy England (CPE).

In a summary of CPE’s committee meeting on 17 and 18 April 2024, the negotiator said pharmacy owners had launched Pharmacy First successfully on 31 January 2024, “with pharmacy teams reporting positive feedback from patients, and pharmacists noting how much they are enjoying providing the service”.

However, a summary document published on 22 April 2024 added: “The ability of pharmacy owners to pass the threshold levels for clinical pathways consultations to trigger the monthly payment of £1,000 continues to be an area of risk which we have been concerned about since the negotiations on the service.”

In addition to the £15 consultation fee that contractors are paid for offering Pharmacy First, a monthly fixed payment of £1,000 is also paid to pharmacy owners who meet a minimum activity threshold of consultations — with this set to increase from 5 to 10 consultations per month in May 2024.

From August 2024, pharmacies will need to offer 20 consultations per month to claim this payment.

The pharmacy negotiator’s concerns are supported by a survey of 266 independent pharmacy owners carried out by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) in March 2024 and published on 25 April 2024.

When asked whether they are achieving the minimum monthly thresholds, more than two-thirds (69%) of respondents answered ‘Yes, but struggling’. Nearly two-thirds (60%) said they “will struggle to achieve it” when asked for their view of meeting the minimum thresholds in May 2024 and a further 19% said it was “unachievable”.

Almost 60% of respondents also reported that fewer than half of their consultations with patients passed ‘the gateway point’ — a set outcome in the pathway during an assessment of the patient — to qualify for payment and therefore count towards meeting the monthly minimum number of consultations for the payment.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMp, said: “The results show that whilst community pharmacy teams are fully behind delivering the Pharmacy First service, there are concerns about the increase in thresholds from May [2024] and that the level of funding of the service does not reflect fairly on the level of work pharmacy teams need to put in to deliver the service.”

She added: “As a sector we have consistently highlighted that we are very keen to support the NHS, however it is very naïve to ignore the realities reported by contractors if we want to ensure that the service is not set up to fail. AIMp will be discussing the results of the survey with officials at NHS England and [the Department of Health and Social Care].”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of CPE, said: “The efforts of all pharmacy teams to implement Pharmacy First have been phenomenal, but we know that challenges remain — and we will continue to push the [Department of Health and Social Care] and NHS England to address these and to drive awareness of this strategically important service.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2024, Vol 312, No 7984;312(7984)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.310273

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